Belaying is a variety of techniques climbers use to create friction within a climbing system, particularly on a climbing rope, so that a falling climber does not fall very far. “On belay” is the voice command issued by your climbing partner to indicate he or she is prepared to keep the tension of the rope as you climb.
The Covid pandemic has brought many challenges to all football teams this season and Liverpool’s injury crisis has compounded that. The team has had to find new ways to accomplish things that came so easily the season before. Liverpool stumbled badly during their journey but some players, in particular, have risen to new challenges and pushed the team over the Champions League finish line. Others have shown that they no longer belong.
Less than two months ago Trent Alexander-Arnold, struggling in the Liverpool team, was benched from the England squad. It’s quite a fall from a player who’d some had prematurely named as the best right-back in the world the previous season. For the first time in his senior career, TAA was playing without talent and experience at central defense and without a well-oiled passing midfield. He looked lost at times and searching for position on the field.
But one thing about this local lad is tenacity. He’s a perfectionist and driven to re-evaluate, learn and improve. And he has! Trent is not the most natural full-back but he is an extraordinarily gifted player. He has adjusted and adapted and will be better because of it. He’s also beginning to look like leadership material.
The truth about an individual is often revealed in adverse conditions. Alexander-Arnold went from lost in the wind to mastering the right flank in a matter of a few weeks. These are the players Jurgen Klopp will remember next season – those who grew to excel in adversity.
At the beginning of the season, I was saying we had midfield overload! If not for the injuries in defense that would have been true. Even so, it was hard for Jones and Oxlade-Chamberlain to get minutes. The departure of Wijnaldum and the slowly setting sun that is James Milner will mitigate that, but Jurgen Klopp will have his eyes open for a midfielder who can offer more ball control and passing.
Missing from that paragraph was Naby Keita who goose is surely cooked at Anfield. He plays in just under half our games and was a first-half substituted disaster against Real Madrid. Keita is as talented as Trent but seems to lack the desire to learn, apply and adapt. Last year Michael Edwards listened to offers but the club was not looking to move him on. This year he may be available for a discounted price.
Reinforcements are incoming in central defense but Nat Phillips has made the case that he belongs. He joins Trent as a member of the class that grew. Assuming someone like Konate arrives or Kabak is retained Liverpool may look to use a returning Joe Gomez as an alternate at right-back giving Neco Williams a much-needed loan.
Rhys Williams should also get a loan! He has the silky touch that Klopp loves in central defenders but his judgment is more like Alberto Moreno’s. If that side of his game can’t improve then he’ll never cut it in the Premier League.
In some ways, Liverpool could use an upgrade in the front line, in other ways they have too much depth simply because of having four forwards who all should be picked as often as possible. Jota has definitely had an impact since he arrived but it seems to have negatively impacted Mane’s game. The same thing happened when Salah arrived and Klopp struggled for balance between Mane and Coutinho. When the latter left everything clicked into place.
It remains to be seen if any of Liverpool’s front line will really depart, it seems unlikely unless there is some monster deal bringing in Haaland or Mbappe. Failing that we might see Origi moved on; making space for forward time for the exciting prospect that is Harvey Elliott. The 18-year old Londoner has all the reads to become an outstanding midfielder as well, so it will be interesting to watch his potential integration into the first team.
Kelleher looks to have sealed the number 2 keeper’s spot and Adrian will be allowed to leave if he wants. Liverpool may still look for a veteran keeper replacement if he does to provide some mature cover but it would be another free transfer. A twilight choice like Costel Pantilimon who knows the PL might be ideal.
There is a temptation from supporters to go big in the Transfer Window due to a disastrous mid-season. But Liverpool finished the season with 9 wins, 3 draws, and a single loss (away to Real Madrid), scoring 24 and conceding 9. This was the catalyst of a late charge into 3rd place in the PL. Next season the backline will be restored and the front line is already in great shape. The team looks set in the goalkeeper position for years to come.
But Liverpool will struggle in midfield without their incumbent trifecta of Fabinho, Henderson and Thiago; so for me the key acquisition will be a possession midfielder to give options and depth. Trent Alexander-Arnold could become this player as could Harvey Elliott, and in Trent’s case another option at right-back would be easier to find.
So there will be some adjustments in the summer, no big changes, and Liverpool will be ready to “‘av at ‘em” in August.